403rd Wing senior recruiter adapts, overcomes in first year

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

An overwhelming majority of Airmen, from the airman basic that just graduated basic military training to serve to the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, had to go through a recruiter to get where they are and where they’re going.

Saying recruiters are an integral part of maintaining the strength of the Air Force is an understatement, and it’s the same for the job the 403rd Wing recruiting team does here.

Senior Master Sgt. Mark Shearin, senior recruiter and assistant flight chief for the 403rd Wing Recruiting flight, leads a team of six recruiters to fill the wing’s needs in every area, officer and enlisted. With a wealth of experience as both a recruiter and a service member in general, Shearin is plenty qualified to lead that effort.

In 1989, Shearin knew he wanted to be in the military, so he chose to enlist into the Army because he wanted to be “hardcore” and because his uncles had served in the Army before him. Wish granted, as he was assigned to become a 13 Bravo Field Artilleryman, also known as a “cannoneer.”

According to goarmy.com, this job entails operating Howitzers, some of the most technologically advanced weapons systems ever created, to support infantry and tank units. Soldiers in this position are responsible for handling ammunition, operating weapons systems, and calculating targets.

After six years in the Army active duty and two in the Army Reserve, Shearin wanted to cross-train into a different job, but the Army couldn’t accommodate him, so he did not reenlist. He did not stay out of service too long, though.

In September 2001, Shearin and his friend were on a cruise, doing what people on cruises do, having a lot of fun. He remembers waking up a little late that Tuesday, the 11th, and hearing someone talking about the 9/11 attacks on the intercom, so he and his friend found a TV and watched the news: multiple terrorist attacks back home in the States. Upon arrival at the port in Miami, he recalled waiting for hours on end before they were finally allowed to disembark because of the country being on such high alert. The itch to be that “hardcore” guy in uniform started to come back.

By 2004, Shearin was back in uniform, this time as a crew chief in the Air Force Reserve at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where, it was so busy, he stayed on orders for three consecutive years, including a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

“When I first was looking to join in ‘89, my buddy tried to get me to go the Air Force route, but I chose Army,” said Shearin. “But had I known about the Air Force Reserve back then, I would have went that route in the first place.”

After living the crew chief life, Shearin became a line recruiter doing that for two years at Charleston and another two in Alexandria, Louisiana. He then worked as an officer recruiter in Virginia for two years before landing at Shaw AFB as an in-service recruiter for four and a half years.

“An in-service recruiter is just someone who recruits active duty people who might want to stay in, but want to switch to the guard or the reserve,” said Shearin

All of that experience led to Shearin’s arrival here in February 2020, but none of it could fully prepare him for what the past year has brought.

In a career-field where there has traditionally been a heavy reliance on going out to schools and events and job fairs to communicate and connect with people face-to-face, the COVID-19 pandemic has required Shearin and his team to adapt and overcome.

“We’ve got a lot of good stuff that we’ve started doing because of COVID,” he said. “We’re able to do virtual appointments and virtual enlistments. Not being able to physically go to the area schools has been a challenge, but our line recruiters do receive ASVAB rosters and the schools send out lists of high school seniors and juniors, so they can send emails and get in contact that way.”

In addition to all of the technological convenience, Air Force recruiting as a whole is restructuring itself into a total force recruiting network in order to better recruit those interested. One way this is being implemented is by connecting reserve recruiters to people who were interested in joining, but did not follow through on the Active Duty side, said Shearin.

As a recruiter, he said half the struggle is people not knowing about the Reserve option as opposed to the full-time commitment active duty requires, and that is why his role as a Reserve recruiter is so important.

As for current needs in the 403rd Wing, Shearin said maintenance has a lot of holes that need filling. From crew chiefs to radio frequency transmissions, there are a lot of jobs available.

“We need maintainers,” he said, “There are plenty of full-time positions, but to get those, you have to be fully qualified. Joining as a traditional reservist can get you there, though.”

For more information how to join the 403rd Wing click here or call 1-800-257-1212.